March 25, 2015
KRWG TV/FM NPR Radio, New Mexico State
After a competitive process, Doña Ana County has been selected as one of eight communities from across the country to receive training and assistance to connect family farmers and local residents who lack access to healthy food.
The Growing Food Connections program will be facilitated locally by the Doña Ana County Health and Human Services Department in partnership with La Semilla. The partnership will focus on plans, policies and partnerships to strengthen ocal food systems.
County staff will receive evidence-based and in-depth customized assistance and training over a three-year period to support family farmers and enhance food security.
“We are consistently looking for ways to develop partnerships and increase our capacity. Partnering with La Semilla and others in this endeavor will improve access to healthy food in our communities throughout the County,” said Health and Human Services Department Director Jamie Michael. “Access to healthy foods is key to good health. In an agricultural community we have tremendous opportunities to link fresh foods to families and individuals within our communities.”
The initiative aims to foster communication, facilitate the development of partnerships, encourage information sharing, and stimulate cross learning within and between various communities. Doña Ana County and Luna County are the two counties from New Mexico participating in this grant. The other six counties span from New York to Kansas.
“We’re thrilled to partner with these eight communities,” said American Farmland Trust Assistant Vice President for Programs, Julia Freedgood, who leads Growing Food Connections’ outreach. “We selected them based on need, desire and readiness for change, and we are very excited about what we can achieve together in Doña Ana County to support sustainable agriculture and to assist community residents who are underserved by our current food system.”
The program is designed to serve as a model for other communities nationwide that face similar challenges.
“By leveraging the assets within their communities, our partners in this initiative are well-positioned to emerge as policy innovators among the 38,000 local governments in the U.S. that have traditionally overlooked the importance of the food system as a public infrastructure with tremendous potential for promoting public health and economic development,” said Dr. Samina Raja, principal investigator and associate professor at the University at Buffalo.